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Ethics Can’t Be a Side Hustle

Mike Monteiro, writing for Dear Design Student:

In the last few months I’ve had a lot of designers ask me “Where can I do good work?”And they don’t mean “good” as in quality. They mean good as in “on the side of the angels.” They look at the world, they see a garbage fire, and they wanna help put it out. That’s commendable. If there’s been a shred of a silver lining lately, it’s been seeing so many people rally to activism. It gives me hope.

Where can you do good work? The answer is so obvious as to be painful. Right where you stand. That’s where you do good work.

Todd McFarlane (Still) Answers to No One

Vulture:

For a time he’d harbored visions of playing baseball by day and drawing comics by night, so with the former option closed to him, he focused on the latter. He already had promising inroads, having earned a spot penciling a story in a low-selling Marvel series called Coyote near the end of college, followed by dribs and drabs of work for Marvel and its rival, DC Comics. His star rose with a short run on a Batman story, and a longer run on Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk. Then, in 1988, he was assigned to Marvel flagship series The Amazing Spider-Man, and made one of the biggest career jumps in comics history.

It’s hard to overstate how revolutionary the 27-year-old McFarlane’s visual take on Spidey was. “When I took over the book, I thought they were doing Spider-Man with an emphasis on man,” he says. “I took it and did Spider-Man, big emphasis on spider.” All of a sudden, the wall-crawler was swinging, crawling, and leaping in a way that felt thrillingly animalistic. His knees would rise to his ears, his toes would point like daggers, his mask’s eye holes grew to massive proportions, and — most famous of all — his webbing would writhe and twist around itself like cylinders of linguini.

“Welcome to Geekdom:” Spidey Extravaganza Part 1

Yours truly is on the latest episode of “Welcome to Geekdom” talking all about Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, and all kinds of nerdy Spider-stuff.

Jason Tate returns to the podcast to talk about The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, and Miles Morales. Comics covered include Spider-Gwen #1-5, Spider-Gwen #1-18, Spider-Man #1-15, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1-28, and Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #1-12.

Here’s the Overcast link if that’s your bag.

The Boy Scouts Can Do a Good Turn Finally

James Dale, writing for The New York Times:

The Mormon Church’s latest announcement suggests that this time has come. It would therefore be a good moment for the Boy Scouts of America to take the opportunity to end anti-gay discrimination within its organization, without exception. The Boy Scouts has debated this issue for so many years already, to which I bear witness from my own struggles to change scouting so that it would accept gay youth and leaders.

In 1990, the Boy Scouts expelled me for being gay. I was a 19-year-old assistant scoutmaster in the New Jersey troop where I earned my Eagle Scout badge. For the next decade, I fought my expulsion, challenging the anti-gay policy on the basis that it violated New Jersey’s law against discrimination, including sexual-orientation discrimination.

In 2000, my lawsuit ended up before the United States Supreme Court. The justices then held, by a 5-to-4 vote, that the Boy Scouts of America was exempt from the state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation because of the First Amendment. The court concluded that the Boy Scouts effectively had a legal right to exclude gay people because the organization viewed them as “immoral” and “unclean.”

Winners and Losers of the Recent Nuclear Holocaust

McSweeneys:

The nation was recently rocked by retaliatory nuclear blasts that have turned much of America into a barren wasteland, decimating the population, triggering the rise of firestorms and supervolcanoes, and generally bringing civilization to the brink of collapse. Let’s take a look at the political fallout.

Perfect satire of the “politics as theatre” bullshit made popular by Chris Cillizza and the like.

Sorting 2 Metric Tons of Lego

Jacques Mattheij:

After a trip to lego land in Denmark I noticed how even adults buy lego in vast quantities, and at prices that were considerably higher than what you might expect for what is essentially bulk ABS. Even second hand lego isn’t cheap at all, it is sold by the part on specialized websites, and by the set, the kilo or the tub on ebay.

After doing some minimal research I noticed that sets do roughly 40 euros / Kg and that bulk lego is about 10, rare parts and lego technic go for 100’s of euros per kg. So, there exists a cottage industry of people that buy lego in bulk, buy new sets and then part this all out or sort it (manually) into more desirable and thus more valuable groupings.

I figured this would be a fun thing to get in on and to build an automated sorter. Not thinking too hard I put in some bids on large lots of lego on the local ebay subsidiary and went to bed. The next morning I woke up to a rather large number of emails congratulating me on having won almost every bid (lesson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high). This was both good and bad. It was bad because it was probably too expensive and it was also bad because it was rather more than I expected. It was good because this provided enough motivation to overcome my natural inertia to actually go and build something.

An Act of Monstrous Cruelty

Paul Weldman:

Here at the Plum Line, we write a lot about the mechanics of politics — the processes of governing, the interplay of political forces, the back-and-forth between citizens and lawmakers, and so on. We do that because it’s interesting and because it winds up affecting all our lives. But there are moments when you have to set aside the mechanics and focus intently on the substance of what government does — or in this case, what government is trying to do.

I won’t mince words. The health-care bill that the House of Representatives passed this afternoon, in an incredibly narrow 217-to-213 vote, is not just wrong, or misguided, or problematic or foolish. It is an abomination. If there has been a piece of legislation in our lifetimes that boiled over with as much malice and indifference to human suffering, I can’t recall what it might have been. And every member of the House who voted for it must be held accountable.

The Hardy Boys The Final Chapter

The Washington Post:

I recently rediscovered my youth. It made me sneeze.

It lay unremembered at the top of a tall bookcase: 15 vintage Hardy Boys novels by Franklin W. Dixon. In getting them down I took a faceful of dust and beetle carapaces.

I carried the books to my favorite rocking chair, beside my favorite lamp, and reverently broke them open to revisit the literature that had inspired in me a lifelong love of language. The pages were as thick as a shirt collar and ochered with age. They smelled the way old books smell, faintly perfumed, quaintly mysterious, like the lining of Great-Grandma’s alligator handbag out in the steamer trunk. I began to read.

Pretty soon a new smell entered the room.

The Hardy Boys stank.

NBA Watching the Basketball Tournament’s Innovative Approach to Crunch Time

Zach Lowe, writing for ESPN:

Elam, a Mensa member, has devoted most of his spare time since 2004 to solving the slog of NBA crunch time. Oklahoma City’s win was remarkable to Elam because the Thunder’s deliberate fouling worked.

Elam has tracked thousands of NBA, college, and international games over the last four years and found basketball’s classic comeback tactic — intentional fouling — almost never results in successful comebacks. Elam found at least one deliberate crunch-time foul from trailing teams in 397 of 877 nationally televised NBA games from 2014 through the middle of this season, according to a PowerPoint presentation he has sent across the basketball world. The trailing team won zero of those games, according to Elam’s data.

I’m not convinced this idea doesn’t make most of the game kind of pointless, but it’s definitely outside of the box.

Considerations on Cost Disease

Scott Alexander:

So, to summarize: in the past fifty years, education costs have doubled, college costs have dectupled, health insurance costs have dectupled, subway costs have at least dectupled, and housing costs have increased by about fifty percent. US health care costs about four times as much as equivalent health care in other First World countries; US subways cost about eight times as much as equivalent subways in other First World countries.

I worry that people don’t appreciate how weird this is. I didn’t appreciate it for a long time. I guess I just figured that Grandpa used to talk about how back in his day movie tickets only cost a nickel; that was just the way of the world. But all of the numbers above are inflation-adjusted. These things have dectupled in cost even after you adjust for movies costing a nickel in Grandpa’s day. They have really, genuinely dectupled in cost, no economic trickery involved.

This entire post is fascinating.

New $5 Linodes Are Great Learning Tools

Linode, which is where this website is hosted, has launched a new $5 per month plan:

We’re also introducing the Linode 1GB, our lowest priced instance ever at only $5 per month. We believe this will add a great deal of utility to our service.

I have one of these that I use for testing and to run a few basic maintenance tasks (reports, stat checking, things like that), and it’s great. If you’re at all interested in learning about servers, Linux, and basic web administration, I highly recommend Linode. You can jump in, try things out, and it’s a simple and inexpensive way to learn (they also have good tutorials). If you mess something up, it’s easy to restore and reset and keep playing around. I’m a big “learn by doing” person, and if you’re like me, take the plunge and give it a shot!

As Marco Arment once wrote:

Modern Linux server administration is much easier than you think. If you can write a halfway decent app, you can manage a Linux VPS in your sleep.

You don’t need to compile kernels, build anything from source code, partition any disks, or deal with iptables in most cases. The defaults of good distributions and packages are almost always very secure. And once you set everything up, you can leave it running largely untouched indefinitely. You’ll probably never be woken up at 3 AM to reboot anything or delete log files.

Launching a Color Picker

I really love the Skala color picker for macOS, it’s a great way to grab colors from the screen and find the correct code to use in web development or other design work. I like it so much that sometimes I want to just launch the color picker outside of an app that has it built in. The best way I’ve found to do this is to create a simple AppleScript application (this app apparently does the same thing, but writing your own is fun).

I use this icon with it.

America, America

Jonathan Kirshner:

Worse still, even if we manage to endure the next four years and then oust him in the next election, from this point forward we will always be the country that elected Donald Trump as President. And as Albert Finney knew all too well in Under the Volcano, “some things, you just can’t apologize for.” This will be felt most acutely on the world stage. Keep in mind that in those areas where Trump departs from traditional Republican positions, such as those regarding trade and international security, Congressional power is much weaker. Trump can start a trade war or provoke an international crisis just by tweeting executive orders from the White House. And that damage will prove irreversible. Because from now on, and for a very long time, countries around the world will have to calculate their interests, expectations, and behavior with the understanding that this is America, or, at the very least, that this is what the American political system can plausibly produce. And so the election of Trump will come to mark the end of the international order that was built to avoid repeating the catastrophes of the first half the twentieth century, and which did so successfully — horrors that we like to imagine we have outgrown. It will not serve us well.

ReadKit 2.5

ReadKit 2.5:

ReadKit 2.5 is a major update that introduces a new design and contains various improvements and fixes. Beside the new UI, this version also adds support for the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro. Delicious API has been too unstable lately; therefore, this service is no longer supported by ReadKit.

My favorite Mac RSS reader got a nice update.

NightStand for Apple Watch

ElevationLab’s Apple Watch dock, NightStand, is currently on sale:

Just set your watch on, from out of the corner of your eye, no careful alignment required. Locks to your bedside table so you never have to hunt for the cord. Undocking is one-handed. Solid, soft, seamless construction. Low-profile, minimal design.

I looked at a few different charging/docking methods and this is by far my favorite.

Call Blockers for iOS

Marco:

When I learned about Nomorobo from readers and saw how creepy it wasn’t, I deleted Truecaller immediately and subscribed to Nomorobo, and it works great.

A few days ago, after a 100% success rate for a couple of weeks — every spam call (and zero non-spam calls) identified before I answer — I enabled the option to send spam calls directly to voicemail.

Now, from my point of view, I just don’t get spam calls anymore.

To me, that’s $2/month very well spent.

I must have been put on some list somewhere because I’ve been getting one or two robocalls a day for the past month.1 I finally signed up for Nomorobo after hearing Marco talk about it on the latest episode of ATP and it’s been money well spent.


  1. I love the fake “oh I was just putting my headset on” call the most.

Cool App: Downie

Downie:

Ever wished you could save a video from the Internet? Search no more, Downie is what you’re looking for. Easily download videos from thousands of different sites.

I’ve been playing around with this app the past couple of days to see how well it works and have come away impressed. I’ve tried a few of these in the past and they never quite work right for me — but this one has been solid so far.